The not-so-secret key to great events? Attendees. There’s nothing like an event that draws a full house. Packed rooms have an energy that leaves people starving for the next event, or leaves them just glad to have attended. When there are too many empty seats, the quality of your event suffers. This makes reducing event cancellations an important goal.

Getting people to come to an event isn’t always easy. Some event managers might have difficulty getting registrants. Another possibility is people register and either cancel right before the event, or just don’t show up. It’s incredibly frustrating to expect a packed house and only get 75% of that come event day. Reducing event cancellations and no-shows is no easy task, however.

Those cancellations and no-shows represent registration money left on the table, or in the case of free events, exposure left on the table. In addition to losing money from unused tickets, cancellations can also waste resources like catered food or gift bags. They can also frustrate people who would have loved to attend the event, but tickets were sold out.

The Truth about No-Shows

There are several reasons registrants cancel or simply don’t show up. It could be they accidentally over-booked, or registered for an event so early they couldn’t predict how packed that week would be. Event marketing, or lack thereof, is another possible factor. If registrants’ excitement fizzles before the event, they’re likely to pick another one that piques their interest. Reducing event cancellations might be as simple as keeping registrants engaged.

Some characteristics of the event may account for more no-shows. Midweek events (Wednesday and Thursday) tend to have more no-shows than weekend events or, surprisingly, events held on a Monday. Smaller events also have less no-shows, as people feel more obligated to be there.

The amount of no-shows depends on the price of an event. Free events often have as much as 50% no-shows, while paid events tend to be around 10-20%. This is because when people pay for something, they’re more likely to follow through and show up.

How does this translate into lost ticket prices? Say a $10 event has 150 registrants that must pay at the door. That’s $1,500. If 20% of registrants don’t show, that’s $300 lost. This can amount to a lot more if multiple events experience the same trend.

No-shows are an inevitable part of every event. There’s bound to be at least a couple people who don’t show up, and that’s fine. This doesn’t mean you have to succumb to high cancellation rates. There are things you can do that help with reducing event cancellations.

Tips for Reducing Event Cancellations

Every successful event needs a plan. The key to reducing event cancellations is to come up with a plan to maximize attendance. Try adding some of these tips to your event plan:

Tip # 1: Communicate with Registrants

Know registrants’ plans so you can allocate unused tickets. Communicate with them via email leading up to the event. Let them know there are others who want tickets but were not able to get them. This can be the push many people need to update their registration.

Tip # 2: Set up a Waiting List

Have a list of people interested in the event who are ready to snatch up tickets that become available. This ensures cancellations are re-directed to others who will pay and show up.

Tip # 3: Excitement Helps in Reducing Event Cancellations

Don’t let the event excitement fizzle. Send registrants regular reminders to keep them interested. Create an event Facebook page for registrants to connect with others. Start a Twitter chat before an event and encourage attendees to live tweet. This can build momentum and set up the event as one not to miss.

Tip # 4: Use Social Media

If you find yourself with a lot of cancellations not long before the event, use social media (like an event Facebook page) to find new registrants. Offer discounts to last minute registrants to encourage ticket sales.

Tip # 5: Early Check-In

Have attendees check-in 24 hours before. This gives a clear indication of who’s actually coming and gives enough time to sell unused tickets.

Tip # 6: Charge Something

As mentioned earlier, events that cost something have less no-shows. Even if the price is only $5, people will be more likely to attend than if the event is free. You can always donate this money to a charity. Also, have attendees pay for the event when they register. This makes it harder to back out, as they’ve already paid.

Tip # 7: Use Analytics

If you have details from past events, try to learn from them. Try to figure out who isn’t showing up and why. Know your event demographic. This can help you direct future event marketing efforts and predict how many attendees you can expect. If you know how many people were no-shows in the past, you can over-sell by that amount in the future.

Creating an event plan that reduces event cancellations will help avoid having too many empty seats on event day.